When you first sign up for Twitter, you are given some ideas regarding who you can start to follow. I still remember some of the suggestions I got when I signed up three years ago. I could follow Michael Ian Black, a comedian whom I adored on the show The State. I could follow Yoko Ono. I could follow Fast Company and other big business publications. And of course, I did follow a lot of those accounts. My brain knew that the chances of Michael Ian Black ever responding to me were extremely slim, but the “what if” made me click “follow.” What if he DID tweet back to me? First of all, that would be amazing, but it also might grant some exposure to my account so I could grow it.
As it happens, this line of thinking is not uncommon. A lot of companies and a lot of nonprofits approach social media the same way. “If I can get that one celebrity to tweet out my blog post or my video or my company name even, I’ll have it made.” This line of thinking has led to “influence measurement” platforms like Klout, which attempt to tell you who the “influencers” are in different categories. In some cases this can be used effectively by companies. For example, if a movie is coming out and the production company wants a really big splash first thing, they can use Klout and find out who the big talkers are in science fiction and science fiction movies. If they can get buy-in from those folks, the chances are good that the word will spread. However, these “influencers” can’t just be approached with a pitch. The effective campaigns in this category are creative and offer prizes of some sort (like a free movie pass to see the film).
If you’re a business or nonprofit, going the route of approaching “A-listers” can be a dangerous road. Why? Well, just because someone has a lot of followers on Twitter does not mean that their followers will be interested in what you are doing. Even if the magical objective is achieved and a big name shares your blog post, you may find that it just creates a small blip in your sales or in your brand strength. A lot of people may retweet the “influencer,” but that is just because they also want to get on that person’s radar. It may not be about you at all.
This is not to say that you need to throw the baby out with the bathwater. In Influence Marketing, by Danny Brown and Sam Fiorella (not an affiliate link) you learn how you can monitor very specific conversations that are relevant to your company and see who is hosting those conversations. That can be helpful. Knowing if people are talking about your type of product, what they are saying, and who the big names in that area are can help you a lot. But like all things in marketing, you need to have a strategy and objectives for which you are aiming before you decide to start listening for “influencers.”
If you are just starting on social media and you are convinced your company will grow exponentially if you can just get three big names to retweet you, you are in for a rude awakening. Take a step back and rethink your strategy now before you invest too much time and effort into something that will very probably not work.
Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/duncan/6282585070/ via Creative Commons